As Darkness Falls
Both agent and con man ran through a sixty story office building as they chased after an old enemy from the past, one running up several flights of stairs to catch up to his partner as the other ran through the halls directly behind the criminal they were after, who was currently trying to escape after being caught by the teammates and the rest of the FBI's white collar unit trying to sell a priceless work of art that he had stolen from a private collector.
Men and women that worked throughout the building were rushing around the three men running in the opposite directions trying to escape after the thief had initially opened fired against both agent and con, who soon after were separated as the man they were chasing disappeared from them and they decided to search in opposite directions in order to apprehend the man, who was a dangerous thief that needed to be brought back to prison where he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone again.
As the criminal ran around a corner on the twelfth floor, the suave con man turned FBI consultant, wearing one of his usual, stylish suits and fedora, quickly followed suit, but then suddenly came to a dead stop as he rounded the corner and came face to face with a person he knew could not possibly be standing before him. However, before the shock could even register, a shot was fired and blackness slowly began to claim him as he collapsed to the floor, pain flaring within him. It was then that a second shot was suddenly fired and unconsciousness finally came, but not before the sound of his partner shouting out his name sounded from a distance, fear clearly evident in the tone of his voice.
Thirty-two hours earlier…
Like he did every morning, except for on his days off, which lately were more common than they usually were, Neal Caffrey walked into FBI's headquarters with a smug and yet genuine smile that could melt most women's hearts. Diana was the only woman that his smile didn't work on and the con man knew that it wasn't just because she went for women instead of men.
Diana was just a hard case, one whom he hoped he'd be able to win over one day. Little did he realize, the uptight agent respected him more than she let on. Trust was not something that came easy to her, especially when it came to working to trust a man, who was a criminal and Caffrey was a criminal, though a criminal she knew deep down was a good man, one who would give his life to protect Peter and even the rest of them if need be.
"Good morning, Diana," Neal spoke up first as he walked up behind her and then handed her a cup of coffee he had come into the offices carrying, as well as one for Peter, Jones, and one for himself as well.
Diana looked at him with suspicion in her eyes as she responded, "Caffrey. You seem to be in a good mood this morning. What's this coffee going to cost me today?"
Neal looked hurt as he answered, "Can't a guy just do something nice for you without you automatically assuming that I want something from you?"
"Can you really blame her?" Jones asked in a mocking tone as he came over to them and Neal handed him his own cup. "You usually do want something from one of us and in order to get it, you try to bribe us with something."
"Yeah, well not today I don't," Neal replied. "These are on the house. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got something for Peter that he'll want to know about."
As Neal walked into his friend's office, Peter was on the phone, but he quickly motioned for Neal to come in and have a seat and as he did, the ex-thief immediately knew that Peter was speaking with his wife, Elizabeth. From what he could tell, Neal discovered that Peter was in a good mood this morning like he was, but it had nothing to do with a case like the one he was about to drop in the agent's lap.
Neal handed Peter the coffee he brought in for him as the man finally hung up and after doing so, Peter said, "Thank you, Neal. What exactly is this going to cost me?"
The con man looked at his friend with hurt on his face as he asked, "Do all of you really believe that I can't do something nice for you without me wanting something from you in return?"
"No, of course not," Peter responded sincerely. "I'm sorry. How are you this morning? You seemed pretty chipper when you walked in this morning until now. Do you have a case for us or something or did you just get lucky last night?"
"First of all, I don't have to speak with you about my love life, but …" Neal began until Peter interrupted.
The agent said jokingly, "Or lack of one."
Neal glared at him and then as he just ignored him as he continued, "But in answer to your question, yes, I do have a new case for us, which is a good thing because I have been getting bored just sitting way down there behind my desk sifting through old case files or sorting them out before filing them away where they all go to die."
"I know what you mean," Peter agreed as he spoke up again in seriousness. "What do you have for us?"
"I was out with Mozzie this morning and we ran into an old friend of ours, or should I say, an old friend of one of my old aliases, who was very anxious to show me a priceless painting done by Rembrandt he had just secured," Neal answered. "Let me tell you, Peter, it was exquisite, at least I thought so until I got a closer look."
Peter smiled as he replied, "The painting was a forgery, wasn't it?"
Neal nodded as he responded, "It was and a very good one at that, which I wouldn't have caught if it weren't for discovering the initials painted into it down in its corner."
"Whose initials were they?" Peter asked.
"Who else can't help signing his work, whom we had quite the fun, but difficult time trying to bring down in the early days of our partnership?" Neal asked himself.
Peter thought for a moment and then suddenly smiled as he answered, "Curtis Hagen, aka the Dutchman! But he's supposed to be rotting in prison for the rest of his life. How could he have pulled this off?"
Neal replied, "It's possible that he has contacts and help on the inside, but I'll bet you anything that if you were to make a call to the big house, you'll discover he somehow managed to escape."
"If that were the case, I would have heard about it," Peter responded as he picked up his phone to check on whether or not Neal was right.
"Not if his friends on the inside covered up his escape," Neal answered and then waited as Peter made the call.
After a few minutes, Peter hung up and spoke up saying, "It looks like you were right. I just spoke with the warden, who checked in on Hagen personally. He was shocked to discover that it wasn't Hagen in his cell, but someone else Hagen had gotten to pretend to be him and take his place. I suggest you and I head on over to the prison to speak with the warden and our fake Dutchman in person so that we can find out what happened. What do you say?"
Neal smiled smugly and replied, "Lead the way. I have no problem with going back to prison, as long as it's not me being locked up."
"The day is still young," Peter said jokingly.